The United States Senate on Wednesday, 3 August, approved a treaty to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to include Finland and Sweden, highlighting the entreaty for a stronger western military alliance amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
With the Republicans and Democrats coming together, the lopsided vote was 95 to 1, with only Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, opposing the expansion, The New York Times reported.
This also comes amid the threats of Russian retaliation that Sweden and Finland could face if they were to join NATO.
All 30 current members of the military alliance, however, must provide formal consent for the accession of the two countries. While 22 countries have already done so, countries like Turkey present a threat to the expansion.
The process faced an obstacle when Turkey accused the two countries of being soft on banned Turkish Kurdish exile groups. The former's objections could still cause trouble for the expansion.
Meanwhile, another amendment, put forth by Senator Dan Sullivan, was approved during the process, which stated that all NATO members should spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense and 20 percent of their defense budgets on major equipment, including research and development, AP reported.
After the vote, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a tweet, "I welcome the Senate's ratification of @NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners, and I look forward to a quick and complete ratification by other NATO members as a commitment to Transatlantic security. (sic)"
US President Joe Biden said in a statement on Wednesday evening:
"This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our Alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow."
(With inputs from AP and The New York Times.)